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Cultivating World Peace at Crystal Castle

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Cultivating World Peace at Crystal Castle

“In the garden of my heart the flowers of peace bloom beautifully.”

These are the take home words I am left with as I end my Peace Experience at Crystal Castle.

This beautiful prayer, recorded by beloved Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, flows through the small gathering on the hillside surrounding the Peace Stupa, and then drifts off into the wider world; floating on the breeze, gently nudged by the flickering, colourful prayer flags.

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Serenity fills the air and the small group are slow to disperse, reluctant to leave this space of beauty and peace.

World peace begins with inner peace, and at Crystal Castle you can create both.

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Perched atop the hills of Mullumbimby in the hinterland of Byron Bay, Australia, lies a tourist attraction with a difference.

The Crystal Castle has been established for over 25 years. Initially operating as a crystal business, it has expanded over the years to include the magnificent Shambala Gardens, meditative Labyrinth, children’s playground, Buddha Walk, Café, and the most recent edition – the Kalachakra Stupa for World Peace.

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A joint project with the Gyota Monks of Tibet, the Peace Stupa was officially opened in 2012. This sacred structure is one of only seven in the world, and the first in the Southern Hemisphere.

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Kalachakra means ‘Wheel of Time’ and is the stupa dedicated to World Peace. It is specifically designed to restore harmony and balance to our planet in this time of war, conflict, and environmental devastation.

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Each brass prayer wheel bordering the stupa contains 130,000 prayers citing the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum, which means ‘may peace prevail’. In Tibetan culture it is believed that upon spinning the prayer wheel, hundreds of thousands of peace blessings will be released into the universe for the benefit of all.

The Crystal Castle offers a variety of workshops and activities which are free of charge once inside the grounds. Daily activities and weekend workshops are held in the Peace Room, which incorporate mind, body, and spirit to enhance your health and well-being.

Everyday at 3.10pm they offer the Peace Experience. This is a one hour activity that culminates in circumambulation of the World Peace Stupa.

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A popular event, I find a space between fellow peace enthusiasts to lay my mat and embark on my inner journey. We begin with a few warm up exercises to bring us into our bodies before lying in savasana, the classic yogic relaxation pose. Our wonderful guide with the voice of an angel and a face to match, leads us through a short yoga nidra, progressively relaxing all the muscles in the body from toe to top.

I melt further into the floor as each part of my body releases its tension. My breath becomes long, slow and very subtle. A small piece of clear quartz crystal is placed into the upturned palm of my hand.  A crystal of transference and manifestation, we are invited to set an intention and send it to our crystal. We visualise the crystal transferring and amplifying the energy of our desires out into the universe for their creation. The crystal has properties to maintain memory, so the intention we embed today will remain for us to connect with at a future date.

Once we are in a deeply relaxed but highly aware state, (those of us who aren’t snoring), our angel begins to play her Tibetan Singing Bowls, bathing us in a sea of sound that penetrates our deepest layers. The powerful vibrations create an even deeper relaxation as they connect at a cellular level. It’s thought that certain frequencies can create balance between left/right brain synchronisation. It is also believed that our internal energy chakras each vibrate at a certain frequency, and that sound healing can be used to re-align the chakras by connecting to those frequencies.

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The sound bath lasts for around twenty minutes. We are asked to remain internal and avoid eye contact with others as we pack away our mats and head into the courtyard for the next part of our experience. Here we form a circle around the Fountain of Peace which has a magnificent centrepiece of rose quartz polished into a perfect sphere. A 310 kilogram semi-precious stone rotating in 0.3 millimetres of water. It is described as the “spinning heart of Crystal Castle” and embodies the qualities of love and compassion.

We imagine that this smooth, pink, glistening sphere rotating before us is planet Earth, and we send her loving, healing energy. We then follow our guide down to the Kalachakra World Peace Stupa where she provides some background information on the construction and significance of this very auspicious monument. For a detailed description of the stupa’s creation visit the Crystal Castle website: http://www.crystalcastle.com.au/peace-stupa/

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We are now ready to embark on the Kora Walk; the tradition being to circumambulate the stupa three times in a clockwise direction, whilst spinning each prayer wheel and chanting the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum. As mentioned earlier, the spinning of the wheels releases hundreds of thousands of prayers into the universe to bring peace to all those who inhabit it.

I find this a beautiful and moving experience. The slow progression of peaceful souls, dutifully spinning the wheels on their circuit. Most chanting on the inside I am assuming. I prefer to softly chant out loud, and connect with the vibrational frequency of the other few voices.

After the third round we find a spot on the green hillside. I scan for a patch of fading afternoon sunshine and sit meditatively as the recorded prayers of Thich Nhat Hanh ring out across the open, lush, crystal dotted landscape.

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The majestic blue and gold stupa looms before me, and the haunting music and beautiful words bring me to tears. I am filled with a deep sense of love, compassion and profound inner peace.

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I reluctantly leave this place of serene beauty and float out through the exit gate. Unlike leaving a yoga class, where the shine of my newly acquired state of bliss is abruptly rubbed off as I’m thrust back into the ‘real world – hustling traffic and city streets; I today find myself descending the mountain, retaining my state of Zen as I slowly wind through the green, rolling hills and wide stretches of open valley; back into the quaint little village of Mullumbimby.

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Once again I am reminded of what a unique and sublime part of the world this is, and I am filled with gratitude to be here.

The wars haven’t suddenly stopped, and our planet is still being decimated, but that is not in my heart in this present moment.

So what can we do to bring more peace to the world?

Our circumstances, abilities, and opportunities will make that completely individual, but if our actions come from peaceful minds and loving hearts, then that universal energy will gather momentum and eventually become the dominating force.

World peace starts from within –  things are underway … 🙂

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    Om Mani Padme Hum – May Peace Prevail on Earth.

 

© Copyright September 2014

 

 

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Yoga In Paradise

Yoga In Paradise

A tropical escape to nurture your mind, body and soul is found hidden deep in the heart of the ancient Daintree rainforest in Far North Queensland.

Prema Shanti Yoga and Meditation Retreat is designed to rejuvenate body and spirit. Set in a secluded, peaceful environment amidst a tropical jungle it is a place of both nature and nurture.

The centre is filled with a spiritual energy stemming from Eastern traditions but not devoted to any particular religion. It focusses on self-realisation and embracing your own divinity. The surrounding landscape is steeped in Aboriginal mythology, so you are able to imbibe both the spiritual energy and the sacred beliefs that reside here in the world’s oldest rainforest.

On arrival we are greeted and orientated by our host Janardhan. Everything is explained including the period of noble silence, which is adhered to each evening and extends until after the following morning’s meditation. We also receive detailed instruction on the techniques and philosophies of meditation and OM-ing. “We do a lot of OM-ing around here.” Janardhan laughs.

Early morning meditations (beginning with 21 sacred OMs!) set a tranquil tone for the day and give you a grounded connection to the beautiful nature surrounding you.

The rooms are basic but clean and comfortable, with the rainforest just beyond your door. The heart of the centre is the large common area above, which has a wraparound wooden verandah and a sacred temple space in the centre where yoga and meditation classes are held. Overlooking lush tropical vegetation, the verandah has two separate lounge areas, an egg-shaped hanging swing seat, and a couple of wide, extremely comfortable hammocks that cocoon and take you inward. A private little nook exists for everybody.

Dining is also on the verandah, and guests enjoy a communal breakfast at a long, low table designed to promote social interaction and friendly conversation. I’m delightfully surprised at the interesting people I meet, enjoying their stories and fascinated by their individual journeys. Prema Shanti is a space for personal introspection and I use this interaction as a mirror for self-reflection.

After breakfast the day is your own to indulge in reflection and relaxation, or to explore the many natural wonders that border the retreat.

Being nestled in the rainforest means there’s an abundance of stunning nature walks nearby, with eco-systems that alternate between dense jungle forests, ferny palm groves, and swampy mangrove wetlands.

The rainforest creeks and swimming holes are especially awe inspiring. Picturesque, peaceful and pristine, these vibrant green wonderlands will take your breath away.

The highlight of our stay was experiencing the swimming holes known as the Blue Pool and the Green Pool. These swimming holes are sacred to the Aboriginal people and according to legend this is where the Rainbow Serpent rested whilst creating the Australian landscape, leaving traces of his bright colours behind. Scientifically, the vibrant blue and green colour of the waters is attributed to elevated levels of minerals that have leeched out of the mountains upstream. This is said to give the pools healing properties, with locals dubbing them ‘the fountain of youth’.

The energy here is tangible. It’s a place where people go to wash away their stresses and allow their spiritual centre to emerge. Guests at Prema Shanti are advised to bathe in the pools as soon as they arrive, Janardhan likening it to a Baptism, and many regret not having discovered them until the end of their stay. My partner was captivated by this revered place and visited it daily.

The Green Pool is accessible to all, but the Blue Pool has a local Aboriginal custom of being a female only swimming hole. This stems from stories of Aboriginal women having used this spot to bathe for millennia. Some stories say that any man who swims there will become infertile, whilst others say that men need only ask permission of the spirits before entering.

I spent a blissful morning gliding through soft, clear iridescent blue waters, surrounded by dense green undergrowth interspersed with palms and tree ferns. Jungle vines dangled over the riverbank, and long pieces of artistically shaped driftwood provided a resting island in the middle of the deep blue pool. At one with this magical environment I became a creature of the rainforest. If you’re lucky enough to be there by yourself you will feel like Adam or Eve in the Garden of Eden.

If it’s exotic wildlife you’re after, Prema Shanti is located in a cassowary hot spot. This majestic king of the rainforest is the world’s third largest bird after the ostrich and emu, and to my absolute delight we came across a cassowary and his chick casually strolling down the middle of the road. It was like being in Jurassic Park as these prehistoric looking creatures calmly did their dinosaur strut, completely un-phased by passing traffic and tourists excitedly snapping pictures out of car windows.

Other off-site nature-based activities include snorkelling the pristine reef, or a long walk down a palm fringed beach.

Local operators also run crocodile spotting cruises and once again I was awestruck and delighted to see these amazing ancient creatures in their natural habitat.

These sublime experiences will root you in the present moment.

If it’s a less threatening style of wildlife you seek, back at the resort you may be lucky enough to spot the adorable musk rat, Australia’s smallest kangaroo. And there’s a wide variety of tropical rainforest birdlife to catch your eye as you gently sway on the verandah hammock; their lilting songs become nature’s lullaby as they send you drifting off to sleep.

Evenings at the retreat start with a yoga class run by Mara, our other host. These small, customised classes allow for specific, individualised attention and leave you feeling centred and energised. Afterwards, Janardhan and Mara join us for a communal dinner where we all enjoy generous servings of delicious, nutritious home-made food and chat about the day’s events, with discussions often leading to issues of a deeper nature.

There is no television, mobile or internet connection at the resort which deepens the feeling of peaceful seclusion in nature. Noble silence begins at 9.30pm which allows the mind time free from external distractions. I find these times to be the most insightful and creative. Silence truly is golden.

The retreat is offered as a package which includes accommodation, daily yoga and meditation, and morning and evening meals.

The unique advantage of this retreat is that it can be used in different ways depending on what your goals are. Prema Shanti provides everything you need to create a soulful space where you can reflect and be drawn to deeper interpretations of your world. Due to its location, it also provides the perfect base to explore and experience the awe inspiring natural wonders that exist in the Daintree and Cape Tribulation region. You get to create your own off-site/on-site, nature/nurture experience.

What is your soul calling for?

Copyright July 2012